Learn How to Set up Your Goals in Google Analytics

Online Marketing

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Talking about web analytics is synonymous with talking about Google Analytics. Pretty much everyone has ever used Google Analytics, even if only to look at the visits of a website.

Moreover, if you frequently read our blog, you probably didn’t miss our previous post about Google Analytics. And surely you remember when we talked about the demo account that Google provides you showing a real use case.

Today we are taking a step further and we’ll see how to define the goals of your website in Google Analytics to know how good (or bad) it is performing.

The first thing you’ll need is a Google Analytics account, something very easy to get if you already have a Google account. I’m going to assume you have one and that you also have installed the Google Analytics tracking code on your website. You can always review this article in case you have problems on the matter.

To define the goals of your website in Google Analytics, you have to access to the admin panel of your account and there you will find the Goals menu in the View section.

In the Google Analytics admin panel you will find the Goals menu, where you can define them.
In the Google Analytics admin panel you will find the Goals menu, where you can define them.

Within this menu you’ll find all the goals previously defined. If you didn’t create one yet, the list will be empty. Luckily for you, if you don’t want to mess with your account you can see the goals defined in the aforementioned Google Analytics demo account. You won’t be able to set new goals in that account, but at least you’ll be able to see how they’re set.

Goals defined in the Google Analytics demo account of the Google Merchandise Store.
Goals defined in the Google Analytics demo account of the Google Merchandise Store.

To create your goals in your web analytics tool you must first know what you want to count as a goal in your website. In Google Analytics there are three types of basic goals that you can define: destination, duration, and pages/screens per session. In addition, you have an extra type of goal that takes into account events, but I’ll leave it for another day so we can focus on the other, simpler ones.

View for creating a goal in Google Analytics.
View for creating a goal in Google Analytics.

Let’s look at each of these three types of simple goals, what they are, and how we can define them to measure what we want.

Duration

If you want to measure how many times your visitors spend more than a certain number of seconds on your website, you can do it with Google Analytics Duration goals. This is especially useful in websites full of content to know if visitors really spend the time required to read everything or if they leave before doing so.

Or also on websites that sell products. Research has shown that if your visitors spend more time on your website, it is easier for them to end up completing a purchase on it. If they leave quickly, you have a problem that you must solve. With this type of goal you will be able to know this information.

When you create a new goal in Google Analytics you will have to choose its type. Choose Duration and name the goal so you can quickly identify it.

How to set up in Google Analytics a goal to measure the duration of your visitors on your website.
How to set up in Google Analytics a goal to measure the duration of your visitors on your website.

In the above image, what we want to do is to count those visitors who spend more than 1 minute on our website. That is why we have chosen “1 minute or more” as the name of the target. When you click Continue, you will see the next part of the goal creation form:

You only have to state the minimum time you want your visitors to spend on your website and Google Analytics will count how many of them meet this goal.
You only need to state the minimum time you want your visitors to spend on your website and Google Analytics will count how many of them meet this goal.

At this point you have to indicate the amount of time you want to mark as a minimum for your goal to be counted as fulfilled. In our example, if a visitor spends a minute visiting our website, Google Analytics will count that as a goal completion.

Later on we will be able to see the conversion rate for that goal, which will indicate the percentage of visitors over the total who have met the duration goal (in our case, spending more than a minute visiting the website).

Pages/Screens Per Session

Another kind of goal is to measure the number of pages or screens that a visitor has accessed during a session. If we are interested in counting this, with Google Analytics we only have to choose this type of goal, as you can see in the image below:

How to create a goal in Google Analytics to measure the pages per session of your visitors.
How to create a goal in Google Analytics to measure the pages per session of your visitors.

In our case we want at least 4 pages to be visited on our website, so we set the target so that the number of pages visited is greater than 3 (that is, 4 or more).

As soon as your visitor meets this goal, Google Analytics will note it and then you will be able to see the conversion rate on this specific metric you just defined.

To measure how many visitors to your site visit a minimum number of pages, use the appropriate Google Analytics goal.
To measure how many visitors to your site visit a minimum number of pages, use the appropriate Google Analytics goal.

So far, you can see that both the Duration and Pages per session goals are quite simple to understand and define. Let’s try to do something a little more difficult…

Destination

If you want to measure how many of your visitors access a certain page of your website, Google Analytics already gives you that information without any additional configuration. You only need to check the amount of visits to that page.

However, the Destination goal is extremely useful because it not only lets you know how many visitors are coming to a particular page, but you can also define the previous pages that they have to go through to get to that page. This way you can check the entire funnel through which your users pass and track where you lose them. Is it in the first step? Just before reaching the final destination page?

With Google Analytics you can measure how many of your visitors come to visit a certain page (after having visited others in a certain order). This way we measure the quality of our conversion funnels.
With Google Analytics you can measure how many of your visitors come to visit a certain page (after having visited others in a certain order). This way we measure the quality of our conversion funnels.

Create the goal, name it, and choose the type Destination. In the example above you can see that we have chosen “Purchase Completed” to name the goal. This is because we want to know how the sales funnel of our website is working, from the moment the user goes to the shopping cart until the order is completed.

When you go to the next step of the goal creation form, you must choose which destination page the visitor ends up on (ordercompleted.html in the example):

In the Google Analytics of type Destination you can define which pages are part of the conversion funnel.
In the Google Analytics of type Destination you can define which pages are part of the conversion funnel.

Then, we activate the funnel option (as you see in the image above, it is optional and disabled by default). This is where we are creating the necessary steps to define the sales funnel of our website.

In our running example there are 4 steps before getting to the destination page. We define these steps in order and, in addition to giving them a name, we indicate the partial URL of each of the pages that belong to the sales funnel:

  1. The visitor goes to the shopping cart (which is the page /basket.html).
  2. Confirms that he wants to start the checkout process and, when redirected to the page /yourinfo.html, introduces his billing and shipping info.
  3. The process continues and he enters the payment details (in the page /payment.html).
  4. After that, the visitor reviews the order (page /revieworder.html).
  5. When the order is completed (redirection to /ordercompleted.html) the purchase process ends.

This is the same scenario Google defined in its Google Analytics demo account for the funnel of the Google Merchandise Store. If you go check that demo account you’ll find there the Purchase Completed goal.

The benefit of defining the goal including its funnel is that you can go to the menu Funnel Visualisation inside Goals submenu as shown in the next image. There you can see at a glance the visitors flow and check where you lose them during the steps of the sales funnel:

In the Conversions section of Google Analytics you can see the conversion funnel graphic of your website that you just defined as a goal. Here you have the previous example taken from the Google Analytics demo account, where you can see the real funnel of the Google merchandising store.
In the Conversions section of Google Analytics you can see the conversion funnel graphic of your website that you just defined as a goal. Here you have the previous example taken from the Google Analytics demo account, where you can see the real funnel of the Google merchandising store.

Final Remarks

Google Analytics is not only used to see the number of monthly visits your website receives. By defining and using goals in Google Analytics, you can control your conversion rates and even know where in your sales funnel you have the most problems.

If you’ve never defined a goal on your website with Google Analytics, I encourage you not to waste more time and give it a try. I am sure that the data you get out of it will help you to continue improving and optimizing the performance of your website.

Featured image by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash.

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Antonio obtained his PhD in Computer Science at UPC. He has several publications in the field of data mining and information retrieval applied to conceptual modeling and health informatics. He specialized in the design, development, and integration of web services and cloud applications. He's an active contributor to the WordPress community and participates in meetups, seminars and WordCamps.

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